Health ministry mum on COVID-19 swabbing backlog

COVID-19 swabbing centres have been swamped but the health ministry is mum on the backlog of people waiting to get tested

COVID-19 swabbing centres have been swamped but the health ministry is mum on the backlog of people waiting to get tested.

Ever since a recent spike in coronavirus cases, people have reported at least a 10-day waiting time to get swabbed.

The health authorities have said that two new swabbing centres will be set up this week, however questions sent to the ministry on the backlog of test requests remained unanswered.

MaltaToday sought information on the waiting list for swabbing appointments, the amount of daily calls received on the COVID helpine, 111 and whether the government was considering new testing kits that give results in 90 minutes.

None of the questions were answered by the time of going to print.

Malta has experienced a surge in coronavirus cases that has prompted the authorities to make the wearing of face masks obligatory in shops, on public transport and the Gozo ferry.

Failure to adhere to the law will result in a €50 fine.

Furthermore, new restrictive rules on mass gatherings were introduced, limiting the maximum number of people to 100 in closed venues and 300 in outside areas.

Two new COVID-19 testing centres will be set up in Qormi and Burmarrad, Health Ministry Chris Fearne said yesterday.

The two centres will bolster local virus testing capacity and allow authorities to carry out more swab tests on a daily basis, following a surge in demand for testing in recent weeks.

Malta currently has COVID-19 testing centres in Luqa, Pembroke, Mater Dei Hospital and Gozo. Together, those centres can carry out up to around 2,000 tests a day, and Fearne has said he would like to see that rate increase to 2,500.

On Friday, Fearne had also said that authorities had engaged more lab technicians to ensure labs, where tests are processed, would be able to keep up with the increased testing rates.

Testing backlog could have led to more cases Malta’s testing rate per capita is among the highest in the world, but a surge in demand for tests late in July led to significant delays in testing times, with some people reporting that they had been given testing appointments up to 10 days after they first called the 111 COVID-19 helpline.

Fearne said that backlog could be in part to blame for the resurgence in coronavirus case numbers, as potentially infected people went about their lives for longer before being tested.

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